Tracy Eiler and Andrea Austin’s Aligned to Achieve came out today and it’s a great book on an important and all too often overlooked topic: how to align sales and marketing.
I’m adding it to my modern SaaS executive must-read book list, which is now:
So, what do I like about Aligned to Achieve?
The book puts a dead moose issue squarely on the table: sales and marketing are not aligned in too many organizations. The book does a great job of showing some examples of what misalignment looks like. My favorites were the one where the sales VP wouldn’t shake the new CMO’s hand (“you’ll be gone soon, no need to get to know you”) and the one where sales waived off marketing from touching any opportunities once they got in the pipeline. Ouch. #TrustFail.
Aligned to Achieve makes great statements like this one: “We believe that pipeline is absolutely the most important metric for sales and marketing alignment, and that’s a major cultural shift for most companies.” Boom, nothing more to say about that.
The book includes fun charts like the one below. I’ve always loved tension-surveys where you ask two sides for a view on the same issue and show the gap – and this gap’s a doozy.
Aligned to Achieve includes the word “transparency” twenty times. Transparency is required in the culture, in collaboration, in definitions, in planning, in the reasons for plans, in process and metrics, in data, in assessing results, in engaging customers, and in objectives and performance against them. Communication is the lubricant in the sales/marketing relationship and transparency the key ingredient.
The book includes a nice chapter on the leadership traits required to work in the aligned environment: collaborative, transparent, analytical, tech savvy, customer focused, and inspirational. Having been a CMO fifteen years ago, I’d say that transparent, analytical, and tech savvy and now more important than ever before.
Aligned to Achieve includes a derivative of my favorite mantra (marketing exists to make sales easier) in the form of:
Sales can’t do it alone and marketing exists to make sales easier
The back half of that mantra (which I borrowed from CTP co-founder Chris Greendale) served me well in my combined 12 years as a CMO. I love the insertion of the front half, which is now more true than ever: sales has never been more codependent with marketing.
The book includes a fun, practical suggestion to have a bi-monthly “smarketing” meeting which brings sales and marketing together to discuss:
- The rolling six-week marketing campaign calendar
- Detailed review of the most recently completed campaigns
- Update on immediately pending campaigns
- Bigger picture items (e.g., upcoming events that impact sales and/or marketing)
- Open discussion and brainstorming to cover challenges and process hiccups
Such meetings are a great idea.
Back in the day when Tracy and I worked together at Business Objects, I always loved Tracy’s habit of “crashing” meetings. She was so committed to sales and marketing alignment – even back then – that if sales were having an important meeting, invited or not, she’d just show up. (It always reminded me of the Woody Allen quote, 80% of success is showing up.) In her aligned organization today, the CEO makes sure she doesn’t have to do that, but by hook or by crook the sales/marketing discussion must happen.
Aligned to Achieve has a nice discussion of the good old sales velocity model which, like my Four Levers of SaaS, is a good way to think about and simplify a business and the levers that drive it.
Unsurprisingly, for a book co-authored by the CMO of a company that sells market data and insights, Aligned to Achieve includes a healthy chapter on the importance of data, including a marketing-adapted version of the DIKW pyramid featuring data, insights, and connections as the three layers. The nice part is that the chapter remains objective and factual – it doesn’t devolve into an infomercial by any means.
The book moves on to discuss the CIO’s role in a sales/marketing-aligned organization and provides a chapter reviewing the results of a survey of 1000 sales and marketing professionals on alignment, uncovering common sources of misalignment and some of the practices used by sales/marketing alignment leaders.
Aligned to Achieve ends with a series of 7 alignment-related predictions which I won’t scoop here. I will say that #4 (“academia catches up”) and #6 (“account-based everything is a top priority”) are my two favorites.
Congratulations to my long-time friend and colleague Tracy Eiler on co-authoring the book and to her colleague Andrea Austin.